Tuesday, 2 March 2021


While perhaps not as celebrated as its more charismatic follow-on missions of Voyager 1 and Voyager 2, Pioneer 10, launched on this day in 1972, was the first space probe travel beyond the asteroid belt and went on to study Jupiter and became the first object to achieve escape velocity to leave the Solar System and wander the interstellar medium. As foundational as the mission was, the Pioneer programme is overshadowed by its successors partly as it went silent in 2003. Designed by Carl Sagan, Linda Salzman Sagan and Frank Drake, Pioneer and its sister probe bear the pictured plaque, should it ever be discovered by intelligent extra-terrestrials. If left undisturbed (canonical Star Trek has Klingons destroying it as target practise), Pioneer is on a trajectory to pass the star system Aldebaran in Taurus in about two million years, which is believed to host a super-Jupiter exoplanet.